It Is The Content, Stupid

february 15, 2009

Aztak EZ Reader

Yesterday, while browsing the Fry's ad, I saw that there was a "new" ebook reading device on the market.  It was the Astak EZ Reader (all together horrible name).  The Astak EZ Reader is a rebranded Hanlin V3 device (like the BeBook) and it can display non-DRM formated content (PDF, DOC, RTF, HTML, TXT, WOL, CHM, RAR/ZIP, FB2, Djvu, Epub, BMP, JPG, LIT, PRC).  The problem is that at its current sale price ($269) and especially at its soon-to-be retail price ($329), the EZ Reader is a hard sell.

Sure, it is great to see competition in the new ebook reader arena (so that Amazon, and to a lesser extent Sony, are not the only players).  But, as much as I hate DRM, the Astak EZ Reader will not do well because of the lack of mainstream content.  In order to get current and mainstream content for ebook readers, the content has to be DRM'd.  That is an unfortunate situation, but one that is a reality.  Sure, adding an ebook reader that does not have DRM features to the mix will definitely give publishers something to think about -- but look how long it took before music companies started going DRM-free with MP3 distribution.

The $269 sale price puts the EZ Reader at the same price point as the Sony Reader (PRS-505 model) when it is on sale.  The normal $329 price point puts the EZ Reader $30 over the Sony Reader's normal price and $30 less than the Amazon Kindle 2.  Both the Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle have huge content libraries, why would someone go with an EZ Reader?

The Sony Reader can even read content in Adobe Digital Editions format, so one can get DRM'd content for free from local libraries (and if your local library does not have digital materials, you can pay $100 per year for a New York Public Library card and use their digital collection).  I love the access to digital materials from my local library.  Right now, I am reading "Physics of the Impossible" by Michio Kaku.  I checked it out from the San Jose Library collection for free, saving me $18 from buying it from the Sony eBook Store.

For the EZ Reader, I would be stuck reading public domain or Project Gutenberg classic texts -- nothing wrong with this if you are into that stuff only.  But, really, the EZ Reader is the same price as the Sony Reader when on sale -- why not get the Sony instead and at least have the option of getting content that has been DRM'd?  The people who are selling the EZ Reader promise DRM Mobi support soon, we will see if that happens anytime soon.  And if it does, it will probably be on the same lines as the BeBook's support for DRM Mobi format:  It is OK.

Still, I applaud more companies bringing ebook devices to market.  Hopefully, it will start convincing publishers to release more titles digitally.  And if that happens, hopefully it will convince publishers to release titles that are in EPUB format and without DRM.

On an aesthetics note, the logo on the face of the EZ Reader is horrible and having to have that in view when reading is quite distracting.  I guess the designers at Astak do not know the meaning of "subtle".